Thai style beef and mango salad, one of our favourite meals!

16 Oct

 We first had this salad about eleven years ago, shortly after we returned from living in America.  It has been a firm favourite ever since and we eat it at least once a month and more often if I think about making it.  Although this is classed as a salad it could not be further away from what I grew up to understand salads to be, i.e. lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber!  The tender chunks of beef, straight from the pan, absorb the hot and spicy salad dressing.  The sweetness of the mango is in perfect contrast with the beef and the heat from the red onion and the watercress.  Your senses will rarely be subjected to such an attack on all levels, smell, taste and sight!  Absolutely delicious and very low in fat, carbohydrate and calories so excellent for anyone who is hoping to lose weight.  What more could you ask for?

Thai food is known for its balance of the four fundamental taste senses, sour, sweet, salty and bitter.  It is often spicy as well.  This dish is an excellent example of how this balance is achieved.  Don’t be put off by the ingredients, especially the mango in a savoury dish.  If you like spicy food I think you will love this.

Thai style beef and mango salad    Serves 2 (generously)

  • 2 sirloin steaks, trimmed of fat, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 mango, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced into half-moon shapes
  • 1 bag watercress
  • 3 tsp fish sauce
  • freshly ground pepper
  • juice 1 lime
  • small knob fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • Spray sunflower oil or Frylight
  1. Put the cubes of steak in a dish, add 1 tsp fish sauce and season well with freshly ground pepper.  Mix well and set aside.
  2. Divide the watercress between two plates.  Sprinkle the mango cubes and sliced onion over each plate.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the lime juice, brown sugar, ginger, garlic and chilli.  Check for taste.  If it is too sweet add more lime, too sour, add a little more sugar.
  4. Just before serving, heat the oil in a wok.  When hot stir fry the steak , turning frequently, until it is browned all over.
  5. Divide the steak between the two plates of salad and dress, to your liking, with the dressing.  Serve immediately. 

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Mackerel with a Thai style marinade.

9 Oct

I think Mackerel is probably one of my favourite fish.  It is so tasty that I didn’t think a marinade would do anything for it but how wrong could I be!  This marinade really enhances the flavour but is very subtle so you can still taste the earthiness of the fish.  I honestly believe it is the best mackerel I have ever tasted.  Next Summer I am going to try it on the BBQ.  In the meantime it is fantastic grilled.  You could serve this with potatoes and maybe a salad or green vegetables. 

One of Terry’s, my husband’s, favourite memories are when he left college and, before starting teaching, he and his friend Gus hitchhiked around Wales.  One of the ports of call was Caldy Island where they caught Mackerel and cooked them on a wood fire on the beach.  I bet they were fantastic!  His friend Gus is a bit of an eccentric.  He is always telling tall stories, I think he actually researches them!  We often say he should write a book.  Some stories that are true, however, are so funny.  He went to visit Terry in College for the weekend and ended up staying for a whole term.  He slept on someones dormitory floor, joined the rugby team and attended lectures.  He even answered questions!  No-one ever sussed it out that he was not actually a student.  

Thai cuisine balances four fundamental taste senses, sour, sweet, salty and bitter (optional).  It is also spicy due to the chillies it invariably includes.  Common ingredients are lime, chillies, garlic and ginger.  Fish sauce is often included, usually offset by sugar.  I found this recipe in the Woman and Home Dinner Tonight magazine and modified it a little.  I’ve searched their website but could not find it so I will write it out for you below, along with the usual slideshow.  It is worth looking up their website and getting their magazine, they have some great recipes.  Anyway here is the one for today!

Mackerel with a Thai style marinade.        Serves 2

  • 2 large mackerel, gutted and cleaned, head removed
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • Thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tsp honey
  • juice and zest of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
  1. Mix the chilli, ginger, honey, lime juice and zest and coriander together in a small bowl.
  2. Make large incisions into both sides of the mackerel.  Rub the marinade all over the fish, making sure you get it some into the incisions.  Put in a dish and cover with cling film and leave to marinade for 2 hours.
  3. Line a grill pan with foil and brush with olive oil to prevent the fish from sticking.  If you are barbecuing oil a foil barbecue tray.  Place the fish into the tray and cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes on each side.  Turn up the heat and cook for a few more minutes on each side until the skin is brown and crispy and the fish is cooked through.  Serve immediately. 

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Stuffed tomatoes and peppers – a great veggie recipe!

2 Oct

I remember the days when my husband, Terry, used to say he hated vegetarian food.  That was before our son married a vegetarian, Tracy.  Over the years I have made countless meals without meat and, with the exception of those using Quorn, Terry has enjoyed every one.  I think perhaps our favourite is Stuffed Tomatoes.  There are lots of variations of this dish.  Some add minced meat to the stuffing, others, like my friend Maritsa, add roasted pine nuts and raisins.  I make mine how my adopted YaYa (that is Grandmother in Greek) taught me, many years ago.  Sadly she is no longer with us but whenever I cook this I have memories of standing in her tiny kitchen, working together and not understanding a word said between us.

For those of you who have tried Greek cooking, it can be a bit of a hit or miss affair.  Recipe books written by Greeks rarely give precise measurements and it can be frustrating when you have to decide how much a ‘bit of’ something actually is.  This, however, is perfectly natural for the Greeks.  If you ever get the chance, talk to a Greek about food.  A light will switch on in their eyes and they will start talking with passion about a subject they love.  Rena Salaman writes that cooking for Greeks is a constant reminder of who they are and where they come from.  Recipes were rarely written down and so every household would have their own version of what is known to be a popular Greek dish.  The one thing they would have in common is that the food would always be made of what is in season, and, most importantly, there would always be an extra portion, just in case there is an unexpected visitor.  Such is the Greek hospitality! This recipe is Syn free if you are using Frylight olive oil and Food Optimising on the Slimming World plan.

Anyway, back to the plot and Yaya’s Stuffed Tomatoes and peppers (Tomates ke piperies yemistes)

Serves 4

  • 4 large tomatoes (ripe beef tomatoes are perfect)
  • 4 green peppers
  • 5oz rice,washed and drained
  • 2 onions finely chopped
  • Small bunch of flat-leafed parsley, chopped
  • 4 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • Cold water
  • Spray olive oil  / Frylight 
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2-3 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges (baking potatoes are best)
  • 8 oz fresh tomatoes, grated, mixed with 1/4 pint water
  • pinch sugar
  1. Wash the tomatoes, slice off the top at the stem end.   Using a teaspoon, carefully remove the tomato pulp and reserve.  Place the tomatoes in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle a tiny amount of sugar in each.
  2. Wash the peppers and slice off the top at the stem end.  Carefully remove all the seeds and white pith inside and discard.  Place in the dish with the tomatoes.
  3. Chop the tomato pulp.  Lightly fry the onion until soft, in a little spray olive oil.  Add the tomato pulp, the rice and the chopped herbs.  Cover with cold water, about 1 inch above the level of the rice mix.  Bring to the boil then simmer on a low heat until rice is tender to the bite and all the water has been absorbed.  Keep an eye on it and add a little more water if required.
  4. Fill the tomatoes and peppers 3/4 full, top with a tablespoon of water and replace the lids.  Wedge potato slices between tomatoes.  Spray with olive oil and pour over the grated tomato mix.  Season with salt and pepper and bake in a preheated oven, 180c/170C fan/gas 4, for 1 hour.  Baste occasionally to keep the vegetables moist.

Kalo Oreksi (Good appetite!) 

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Chicken and courgettes with spaghetti

25 Sep

DSCI0560I was caught on the hop the other night. We were supposed to be going out and our plans fell through so I had to pull together a meal from what I had in.  The result was amazing.  In the past I have made off the cuff meals from scratch. I suppose it is a bit like the invention test in Masterchef.  We have had some great meals but I would not write down what I did so they were always a one-off, much to my husbands dismay.  This was one of the reasons my grandson, Danny, talked me into doing a blog.  Well, this is my latest attempt at an invention test.  Hope you like it.

Chicken and courgettes with Spaghetti                    Serves 4

  • Spray olive oil or Frylight
  • 3 rashers of lean bacon, all fat removed, sliced
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 courgette, halved lengthways and then sliced
  • About 150g/6 oz leftover roast chicken, cut into bite sized pieces (or 1 chicken breast simmered in chicken stock until cooked the cut up as before)
  • 1 large, ripe tomato, roughly chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 300g spaghetti
  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan then fry the bacon over a high heat for a couple of minutes until changing colour.
  2. Turn down the heat to low – medium and add the onion and garlic. Mix well and sauté for about 10 minutes until the onion is soft but not coloured.
  3. Add the courgettes, mix well and cook for 3 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken and cook for 4 minutes then add the tomatoes. Season to taste then mix well. Cook for about 5 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down, the chicken is cooked through and the courgettes are tender.
  5. In the meantime, cook the spaghetti as per packet instructions.
  6. Add a couple of tbsp of the spaghetti cooking water to the chicken mix to make a little sauce.
  7. When the spaghetti is cooked, drain and add to the chicken. Toss so the spaghetti is coated with the sauce then serve immediately.

 

Baked cod with chilli and ginger – delicious!

18 Sep

DSCI0082I love fish but wanted something different that would fit in with my Slimming World eating plan.  This was exactly that! I can honestly say that every mouthful was delicious. I served it with steamed broccoli and stir fried vegetables for added texture, although a side of boiled rice or noodles with the broccoli would be just as nice I’m sure.

The recipe calls for Piquant Peppers (Peppadew) from a jar. These are round in shape, similar to Scotch Bonnets, but there the similarity ends.  They are relatively mild although you will detect a slight heat which is enhanced by the sweetness of the chopped stem ginger.

Peppadew is the brand name of sweet piquanté peppers,  grown in the Limpopo province of South Africa. This type of piquante pepper was first discovered in early 1993 and introduced to market later that same decade.The flavour of the Peppadew fruit is sweet, with mild heat of around 1,177 on the Scoville scale.   To put this into context Jalapeños have 2,500–10,000 Scoville  heat units.

Here is the recipe. I found it in a Woman and Home publication but could not find a link to it on their website

Baked cod with chilli and ginger               Serves 2 (easily doubled)

  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 1 piece stem ginger, chopped plus 1 tbsp ginger syrup from the jar
  • 4 Peppadew peppers from a jar, drained and sliced
  • 2 pieces of of cod fillet
  • 1 tbsp Japanese soy sauce (Kikkoman)
  1. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
  2. Place the fish in an ovenproof dish. Scatter the garlic, chilli and stem ginger over the top.
  3. Mix together the soy sauce and ginger syrup and pour over the fish.
  4. Bake in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.

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Beef Hotpot, great way to use up leftover roast beef

21 Aug

I wonder how many people buy a joint of beef that looks the business then find its tough and chewy when cooked. That is exactly what happened to me this Sunday. I know butchers say there is no way of knowing if beef is going to be tough before it’s cooked but it is such a disappointment on the day. Thankfully there was only the two of us for lunch and I was able to rescue it by slicing, cutting out the layer of grizzle and braising it with sliced onions in stock for half an hour before serving.

That left me with the problem of what to do with the other half of the joint. Those that know me will know I never waste food. I think of all those poor people who have nothing to eat and I just can’t do it! So, given the braising success, I decided to make a Beef Hotpot. It was a huge success, even if I do say so myself.

I think the secret of a good Hotpot is to make a really tasty gravy. The meat in this one is already cooked so will not be adding to the flavour so the recipe includes additions that overcome that. Some will turn their noses up at kidneys. Please don’t. Even if the thought of kidneys is abhorrent you will really not know they are in there and they add a lovely richness to the gravy.

I have made this as healthy as possible. It’s low fat and, for those on Slimming World, it is very low in Syns, 1 Syn between four people plus any you may add with Spray oil.

Here is the recipe. Serve with green vegetables if liked.

Beef Hotpot.                        Serves 4

  • Cooked roast beef, all fat and grizzle removed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Spray sunflower oil or Frylight
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 lambs kidneys, core removed and very finely chopped
  • 3/4 pt beef stock made with 2 stock cubes
  • Leaves from a sprig of fresh thyme
  • 1tsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tsp cornflour dissolved in a little water
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 medium red potatoes, thinly slices
  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/160C fan
  2. Spray a large nonstick frying pan with oil and fry the onion over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the kidneys and fry for a minute more.
  3. pour in the stock and add the cornflour, thyme and Worcestershire Sauce. Season.
  4. Add the beef, mix well, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Pour all the beef mixture into an ovenproof dish. Cover with the potatoes then press the potatoes down slightly so they are covered with a little gravy.
  6. Cover with foil and cook in the oven for 1.5 hours or until the potatoes are tender. Serve while hot.

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Slow cooker beef curry, Slimming World friendly

13 Aug

Since my last post I have been voted Slimming World Woman of the Year for my group. I am completely overwhelmed and humbled that someone would even think of nominating me. As I stood at the front of group with five other amazing nominees it gave me time to take stock and reflect on my slimming journey and the lovely friends I have shared it with.  Some of my closest friends will know I have had a lifelong battle with my weight.  I weighed in at 9.5 lbs at birth and it was all downhill from there. I think my Father insisting I clear my plate before I could leave the table didn’t help any or that my wonderful, loyal husband flatly denying for forty-three years that my bum  looked big in clothes when I asked, bless him.

As you may have gathered, I love cooking but it wasn’t until I started following Slimming World that I realised just how much fat my food hero chefs used in their recipes.  It has been a challenge to adapt those recipes and, to my absolute amazement, the finished dishes are delicious and much healthier. I admit I am not over keen on the low-calorie spray that is recommended to replace oil and it isn’t always successful for frying some foods, so I often use a normal oil spray but limit the number of sprays and count the Syns. When a recipe is for a few people the individual Syns are negligible so as long as they are counted into my daily allowance it isn’t a problem.

Another great love of mine are cooking gadgets. I have recently invested in a slow cooker and could not wait to try it out. This is my first recipe using it. The curry was bubbling gently away all day and was ready for when I returned from my Group meeting. The house smelled divine and the curry was delicious so a great success.  Here is the recipe. It was adapted from a recipe on BBC Food so that it is Slimming World friendly. By my calculations this works out about two Syns for the whole recipe so only half a Syn if used for four people.

Slow-cooker beef curry                          Serves 4

  • Spray sunflower oil or Frylight
  • 800g/1lb 12oz beef braising steak cut into 2.5cm/1in pieces
  • 2 brown onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 red chillies, finely chopped, plus extra to taste
  • 2.5cm/1in piece fresh root ginger
  • 4 tsp ground cumin
  • 4 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 x 400g/14oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 200g/7oz 0% fat Greek natural yogurt
  1. Spray a nonstick frying pan with the oil or Frylight and fry the beef in batches over a medium to high heat until browned all over. This will take about 4 minutes for each pan.  The aim is to sear the meat so don’t overfill the pan. Transfer to the slow-cooker.
  2. Spray the pan again, lower the heat and fry the onions for about 5 minutes until they have softened slightly. Add the chillies, garlic and ginger and fry for 2 minutes more, then add the spices and fry for 1 more minute. If the pan appears to be drying out add a little water rather than more oil. Transfer to the slow-cooker.
  3. Add the tomatoes to the slow-cooker plus one empty can filled with water. Mix well then cover and cook on a low setting for 8 hours.
  4. Whisk the yogurt in a bowl and add 50 ml of hot water very slowly whisking all the time. This will stop it curdling when you add it to the curry.  Add the yogurt, mixing continually, to the curry. Add the garam masala and season with salt to taste. If you want the curry a little hotter add a little more chilli.  Cook for a further 30 minutes then serve with boiled rice and, if you like, a side salad.

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